Alumni Receive Awards at National Conference

Dec. 23, 2014

Four alumni of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership were recently recognized at the 2014 National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., November 18-22.

JoAnn Pfeiffer, Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award
Gina Neff, Outstanding Young Member Award
Maria Homan, Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship
Katie Black, Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship

JoAnn Pfeiffer, agricultural educator at Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award. The National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who have inspired and enlightened their students through engaging and interactive lessons in the science of agriculture.

Pfeiffer has been teaching agriculture for 15 years at Federal Hocking High School.  The two-teacher agriculture program is popular — currently reaching half of the students in the high school.  The program guides students through inquiry-based projects so they can make connections between science, math and agriculture. Pfeiffer’s goal is to teach students how to think and find answers on their own. She challenges students with a problem, and asks them to consider and test solutions to find the best solution on their own.

Gina Neff, agricultural educator at Lancaster High School in Lancaster, Ohio, is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the Outstanding Young Member Award.

Neff has been the agriculture teacher at Lancaster High School for the past four years, where she engages students in an agriscience based curriculum. She is certified to teach Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) for all four of her classes: Principles of Agricultural Sciences – Plant, Natural Resources and Ecology, Principles of Agricultural Sciences – Animal, and Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. CASE is a system of instruction and teacher support that trains educators in inquiry-based teaching methods and provides them with a structured sequence of agriculture courses.

Maria Homan, agricultural educator at New Bremen High School in New Bremen, Ohio, and Katie Black, agricultural educator at Wauseon High School in Wauseon, Ohio, were two of a select group of agriculture teachers nationwide who received the 2014 Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship.

One of the keys to Black’s success at Wauseon has been the strong support of the school’s FFA Alumni chapter.  Alumni members lend a hand wherever needed, whether that means helping in the classroom, volunteering at events, or coaching a team for a FFA competition.

Black has also been able to secure grants that have given her funding to provide some unique learning facilities for her students. These include sensory trails in a nearby two-acre wooded area and a two-acre community garden, in addition to their already established 88-acre land and livestock facility. Each of these facilities helps her provide students with various hands-on activities, whether it’s learning to plow a field or safely operate a chainsaw.

Homan has been the agriculture teacher at New Bremen High School since 2013, and taught at Fairlawn High School for two years prior to that.  At Fairlawn, one of her biggest academic accomplishments was a hydroponics unit that was developed, built, and used by students. Now at New Bremen, Homan continues to provide real-world learning through labs like artificial insemination and 3-D digestion modeling, as well as field trips to local farms and guest speakers in the classroom.

The Teachers Turn the Key scholarship brings together agricultural educators with four or fewer years of experience and immerses them in three days of professional development that addresses issues specific to the early years of teaching agriculture. Participants also have the opportunity to become involved in NAAE leadership and network with other NAAE convention attendees. TTTK participants come away from the experience with a long-lasting peer cohort and tools that will help them have successful careers as agricultural educators.

These award winners are graduates of the agriscience education major at Ohio State (formerly agricultural and extension education.) The agriscience education major prepares its students to acquire a license to teach agricultural science in secondary high schools in Ohio and across the country, with extensive training in agricultural science, educational psychology, instructional methods, and youth development.

For additional information on the agriscience education major, visit or call 614.247.6358.

Pictures from the event can be seen on our Department blog.